More than 1,000 students receive their degrees at Michigan Technological University's Commencement Ceremonies held in the spring and fall of each year. Congratulations to our graduates! #mtugrad
Spring 2019 Speakers
Col. Gregory H. Johnson
Our Commencement speaker, Col. Gregory H. Johnson (USAF, Ret.) is a former, astronaut, test pilot and combat fighter pilot who served in the Middle East.
Johnson is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, has a Master of Science in Flight Structures Engineering from Columbia University and an MBA from the University of Texas.
In 2006, after years of intensive training, he was selected to pilot the Space Shuttle Endeavour on a mission to help assemble the International Space Station, launching in March 2008. Three years later, Johnson piloted Endeavour’s final flight to ISS, the second to last Space Shuttle flight ever. He has spent more than 31 days in space, orbited the earth nearly 500 times, and traveled more than 12.5 million miles.
Prior to joining NASA, Johnson had been deployed to Saudi Arabia where he flew 34 combat missions in support of Operation Desert Storm. On his second deployment, he flew an additional 27 combat missions in support of Operation Southern Watch.
Johnson lives part time in Traverse City, Michigan, where he is an aerospace and youth development consultant for Newton’s Road, a non-profit that works with regional partners to support and increase access to learning opportunities in STEM. He is also the Managing Director of the Traverse City Space Accelerator.
Student Speaker—Monica Brechting
When nearly a dozen Michigan Tech grads from the Grand Rapids area get together, you could consider it an alumni event. However, today’s student speaker, Monica Brechting, calls it a family reunion.
In high school, when Monica decided on engineering as a career path, her choice of Michigan Tech was really a foregone conclusion. The Grand Rapids native, who will receive a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, is the 12th Husky in her family. The count so far is one brother, one sister, a brother-in-law, three uncles and five cousins.
Family, and in particular family history, are important to Monica, who says a relative came to the Copper Country years before there was a Michigan Tech. “My grandfather, three generations removed, left Germany in 1857 to settle in Calumet.” She says he worked in the mines for 11 years before moving to the Grand Rapids area to start a fruit and vegetable farming operation. After 150 years, the farm is still there—and it’s still owned by her family.
“Growing up on a farm taught me the value of hard work,” she says. “I like working with my hands, so engineering made sense to me.” Life on a farm developed a work ethic in Monica that served her well here in Houghton. She has been active at St. Albert the Great University Parish, played piccolo in the Huskies Pep Band and was a member of the Robotics System Enterprise as team lead for her Capstone project, an underwater soil sampler. She also served as president of the Michigan Tech Chapter of Silver Wings, a national organization dedicated to creating proactive, knowledgeable and effective civic leaders through community service and education about national defense.
As today approached, Monica says she pondered the question “What makes a Husky?” She researched her talk by asking friends what made them know they belonged here. “This is my love letter to Michigan Tech,” she says. “It takes a unique person to thrive here, but if you’re that type of person, you’ll fall in love.”
She says “I wrote this speech because it’s the speech I wanted to hear.”
Monica says she was a bit unsure of herself when she first got here, but eventually hit her stride. She says she went through the process of not knowing where she fit in to finding her place. “It took me two-and-a-half years, but I found my Husky family at the passionate community of St. Als. They make me strive every day to be the best I can be at whatever I try.”
Monica is graduating today as an engineer. And with a 3.52 GPA, she’s doing so with honors.
Michigan Tech has become a significant part of Monica’s family history and she will be sad to leave it. “I am excited to move back closer to home, especially in the Grand Rapids Area.”
It’s not surprising, after all it’s where her roots are.
- 2018 Spring | 2018 Midyear
- 2017 Spring | 2017 Midyear
- 2016 Spring | 2016 Midyear
- 2015 Spring | 2015 Midyear
- 2014 Spring | 2014 Midyear
- 2013 Spring | 2013 Midyear
- 2012 Spring | 2012 Midyear
- 2011 Spring | 2011 Midyear
- 2010 Spring | 2010 Midyear
- 2009 Spring | 2009 Midyear
- 2008 Spring | 2008 Midyear
- 2007 Spring | 2007 Midyear
- 2006 Spring | 2006 Midyear